Focus on AFB: Spring 2016

Welcome Kirk Adams!

Photo of Kirk Adams in an office

AFB is very pleased to welcome Kirk Adams as our new President and CEO. Kirk comes to AFB with a stellar track record of breaking barriers.

“Kirk’s exceptional leadership record, nonprofit executive experience, keen understanding of the blindness field and deep commitment to improving the lives of people who are blind or visually impaired, made him the clear choice. We are thrilled to have him as AFB’s next leader,” said Larry B. Kimbler, chair of AFB’s Board of Trustees.

Blind from the age of five, Kirk Adams has continually defied expectations. In school, he ran track, skied, and wrestled. When he was eighteen, he hiked Mount Ranier with famed climber Jim Whittaker.

He was the first person with visual impairments to lead the Seattle Lighthouse for the Blind, a nearly century-old institution. Under his leadership, the Lighthouse expanded to 11 different locations across the nation, increasing both revenue and the number of its employees, many of whom are blind, deaf-blind or blind with other disabilities.

“Kirk is a brilliant strategist; I’ve long admired his leadership at the Lighthouse and within the blindness field,” said Carl R. Augusto, AFB’s retiring president and CEO. “As an AFB Trustee, he is already a champion of our organization and I have no doubt that he will accomplish great things in his new role.”

Adams received a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership from Seattle University and is completing a Ph.D. in leadership and change from Antioch University in Ohio. He is only the sixth chief executive to lead AFB since its founding in 1921. His tenure officially begins on May 16th.

Carl R. Augusto

Continue the Dream!

Carl Augusto by the AFB sign

There is still time to support our Continuing the Dream campaign in recognition of Carl R. Augusto’s more than twenty-five years of outstanding leadership at AFB. Make an online tribute gift: www.afb.org/carlsdream or send payment to:

Continuing the Dream
AFB
2 Penn Plaza, Suite 1102
New York, NY 10121

For more information, contact Ilana Lewin, ilewin@afb.net, tel: (212) 502-7627

Celebrate Extraordinary Teachers with a Gift to the Helen Keller Archives!

Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan Macy formal portrait. Keller is seated infront of Macy. With her left hand, Keller holds her teacher's right hand, circa 1893

May is Teacher Appreciation Month and we’re asking friends and network partners to make a gift in honor of a teacher or someone who has made a difference in their lives.

Anne Sullivan Macy dedicated her life to ensuring that her pupil, Helen Keller, had the tools and confidence she needed to navigate the world and thrive.

This year marks the 150th Anniversary year of Annie Sullivan’s birth. We will be posting online tributes and a special donation page in her memory. Proceeds will support our Helen Keller Archives that contain over 80,000 one-of-a-kind items, including Helen Keller’s journals, correspondence with US presidents and icons of the 20th century, manuscripts, rare photographs, and precious artifacts.

YOUR SUPPORT WILL PRESERVE THIS HISTORIC COLLECTION FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS — we will say “thank you” with a Helen Keller e-card for gifts of: $15, $25, $50 or more. Gifts at the Miracle Worker level of $150 and above, will receive a copy of To Love This Life, an inspiring book of Helen Keller quotations. For more, go to: www.afb.org/helenkeller and click on the SAVE THE ARCHIVES link.

Get to Know AFB: Mark Richert

Meet Mark Richert, Director of AFB’s Public Policy Center in Washington D.C.

When did you first experience vision loss?

I was born with a congenital retinal disorder.

What was your school experience like?

I attended a magnet school in Fort Lauderdale, FL where I learned braille and technology which became essential for my success throughout school.

What kinds of subjects or activities did you enjoy?

Social studies, English, and history – I was not much of a math guy. Music was and still is a big part of my life, I played piano and joined the debate team in high school. Outside of school, I liked to swim.

What were some of the challenges you encountered?

I had to lug a very heavy typewriter to and from school with a 2-hour bus ride each way. And the gym teacher would make me walk around the track by myself. After my mom complained, I was “included” but, imagine being a blind kid standing between the goal posts and being pummeled.

When did you decide to go to law school?

When I was a sophomore at Stetson University, I took a course on law and society that inspired the decision.

What hurdles did you face in law school?

A lot of my course work was on cassette tape and I had students read to me through George Washington University Law School’s work:study program. The biggest setback came in December 1990 when my vision really deteriorated to the point that I could no longer use a video magnifier.

How did you handle those setbacks?

I developed a very keen memory and worked really hard, also my ability to use a braille notetaker and a computer screen reader were vital.

Did you ever encounter prejudice?

Yes, countless times. I’ll never forget at my wedding when someone came up to me and said how lucky I was that a woman would accept marrying a blind man.

Mark Richert standing outside the White House

How did things go after graduation?

Basically, for two years, I lived on ramen noodles. At one K Street firm, the guy said he couldn’t hire me because they didn’t have a “braille phone.” I remember folding t-shirts at the Discovery store and thinking, wow, I got a law degree for this?

When was your first break?

A friend referred me to an internship at the National Industries for the Blind where I was eventually hired as a government relations representative.

When did you begin to work for AFB?

I served as AFB’s interim VP for government affairs and then worked for the American Council of the Blind before joining the Federal Communications Commission. I was Executive Director of the Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) for four years, and in 2005, became director of AFB’s Public Policy Center.

What is special about AFB?

No other organization does what AFB does. We have no particular interest group that we have to serve but also no minions that can be deployed during tough policy battles. That is why we are able to play a leadership role in building coalitions.

What are some of the policy initiatives you are currently working on?

We are seeking senate sponsorship of the Medicare Demo project for Low Vision Devices (H.R. 729) – to show that coverage of these devices would make economic sense. We’re also promoting the Marrakesh Treaty that would make content more widely accessible. And we’re still pushing the Cogswell Macy Act which would help level the playing field for children with vision loss.

Accessibility: Signed, Sealed, Delivered!

AFB applauds legendary recording artist Stevie Wonder for speaking out on behalf of people with disabilities at this year’s Grammy Awards. He read the winner’s name in braille and then challenged the audience to “make every single thing accessible to every single person with a disability.” Stevie Wonder won AFB’s Helen Keller Achievement Award in 1996 and he keeps shining. Bravo, Stevie!

Stevie Wonder in concert, 2016Carl Augusto presenting Stevie Wonder with the Helen Keller Achievement Award in 1996

Stevie Wonder at a 2016 concert and accepting the Helen Keller Achievement Award from Carl Augusto, 1996.

Migel Medal, Marriott, and Access Awards

AFB’s Annual Leadership Conference was held in Washington D.C. (Building a Future of Possibilities, March 3-5, 2016) drawing more than 400 participants from around the country as well as visitors from around the world. At the conference, AFB conferred the prestigious Migel Medal, the highest honor in the blindness field, as well as Access Awards for innovation in making products or services accessible to consumers with vision loss. The Migel Medal went to Michael Bina, president of the Maryland School of the Blind and to philanthropist Llura “Lulie” Liggett Gund and Gordon Gund, founder of the Foundation for Fighting Blindness. Access Award winners included Avid Technology, Inc., Glinda Hill, ITNAmerica, Netflix and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). Susan Mazrui of AT&T won AFB’s Stephen Garff Marriott Award for outstanding mentorship by a person with vision loss. Don’t miss next year’s conference, also to be held in Washington D.C., March 2-4, 2017.

Helen Keller Achievement Awards

logo for Helen Keller Achievement Awards, showing signposts for Comcast NBCUniversal, JPMorgan Chase and Co, and Rebecca Alexander

Join us in New York for the 20th Annual Helen Keller Achievement Awards to be held at the J.W. Marriott Essex House on Central Park South, Thursday, June 16, 2016. This year’s event will honor Comcast NBCUniversal, JPMorgan Chase & Co., and inspirational author/psychotherapist Rebecca Alexander, LCSW-R, MPH. Enjoy a gourmet dinner, live music, and a fun time, all for a great cause. Reservations and information: www.afb.org/hkaa or contact Suzette Williams, email: events@afb.net, tel: (212) 502-7621.

Other Ways to Help AFB

More and more friends of AFB are opting to show their support through planned giving. Some want to receive tax benefits* or ensure their legacy endures for years to come. Options include:

  • Bequests and Trusts
  • Pension Plan Gifts
  • Life Insurance
  • Charitable Gift Annuities
  • Stocks/Bonds/Mutual Funds
  • Pooled Income Fund

Monthly Sustainers

Our monthly sustainer program lets you stay within your budget while making a huge impact. To become a monthly sustainer, select the Monthly Donation check box on our donate page (minimum: $10/month): www.afb.org/donatenow or call: (888) 824-2184.

Tributes

Say “thank-you” to a personal hero, loved one, or mentor with a tribute gift to AFB. You can donate online: www.afb.org/tribute or send donations to: AFB Resource Development – 2 Penn Plaza Suite 1102 – New York, NY 10121. Be sure to include the name of the individual to be honored or commemorated and anyone you want to be notified about your gift.

To learn more about planned giving, please call (888) 824-2184, or email: swilliams@afb.org Subject: Planned Giving

AFB is a 501(c)3 non-profit, EIN 13-5562161. Gifts are tax deductible to the extent allowable by law.

*Please consult a professional before making a planned or testamentary gift.